Sunday, August 31, 2008

Women Poets on Mentorship

I loved this book. It's a collection of essays by women poets about their relationships with the women poets who served as their mentors. There's a lot of variety among the essays and the kinds of mentoring described in them.

Jenny Factor writes about her first shy encounter with Marilyn Hacker. She writes about how the older poet became her teacher and how the relationship evolved into friendship. Beth Ann Fennelly writes about how a single poem, "Bulimia," by Denise Duhamel, revolutionized her own understanding of what poetry could be and do. Daphne Gottlieb, instead of focusing on a single relationship, describes how an entire community of like-minded people became her mentor. Joy Katz writes about how the poetry of Sharon Olds, not the poet herself, served as a mentor. I particularly liked this approach as it mirrors my own experiences and philosophy, i.e., the poems themselves are often our best teachers.

Erika Meitner describes what might be regarded as a more traditional mentoring relationship with Rita Dove who was part of Meitner's MFA program. Cin Salach's relationship was the one that took the most unexpected direction as she and Maureen Seaton moved from mentor and student to lovers. For me the most surprising relationship was between Rebecca Wolff and Molly Peacock. This relationship began when Wolff was only in 9th grade and found herself in Peacock's class back when Peacock was still a full-time teacher. She then continued for three years to work with Peacock. This relationship surprised me because the two poets could not be more different, but Wolff makes it clear that she was able to throw off the influence of her mentor's formalism because her mentor gave her permission to do so and encouraged her to find her own style. And isn't that what a mentor ought to do?

Since all of the essayists are poets, it is not surprising to find some really wonderful prose here, some of it, for example, Miranda Field's piece on Fanny Howe, just exquisite. I also enjoyed the Introduction by the editors, Arielle Greenberg and Rachel Zucker. The collection is also a wonderful mixture of prose and poetry. Each poet's essay is followed by three of her own poems and then one by her mentor.

The one thing missing for me was an essay by an older poet, someone who found poetry late. How did this person find mentors? And were they younger or older? But maybe that's a topic for volume two. I hope so.

Bookmark and Share

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Happy Ending

A bouquet for Stacey Lynn Brown

There's a happy ending to Stacey Lynn Brown's book publication nightmare. This is just the ending I and so many others wanted for her. Another publisher has picked up her collection! Cradle Song will be published in January 2009 by C&R Press, a new press started by director Ryan G. Van Cleave and editor Chad Prevost. Although the press has only one title under its belt so far, I know Stacey is in very good hands. These are two very reputable poets.

C&R's first book is Michelle Bitting's Good Friday Kiss, winner of the 2007 De Novo Award, a contest judged by Thomas Lux. This book is available at the website. There is also an anthology, Breathe: 101 Contemporary Odes, coming soon. Also scheduled is the 2007 Open Series winner, Jon Veinberg's The Speed Limit of Clouds.

Submissions for the 2008 DeNova first book contest are being taken as are submissions for the open series. Guidelines are posted at the website. Note that the deadline for the De Novo contest is October 1. Deadline for the Open Series is November 29. The open series requires a reading fee of $20. Both contests give entrants a copy of a winning book as long as an SASE is included. I like it when you get something for your money.

Van Cleave is sticking to Stacey's original publication date of January 2009 so that she can proceed with already scheduled readings and other events. How nice and accommodating is that?

Sometimes things really do work out as they should.

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Publication Nightmare—The Other Side

It seems to me only fair that the editors of Cider Press be allowed to present their side of the Stacey Lynn Brown story. One of the members of the Wompo listserv, where the link to Stacey's blog was posted, sent the details of the story to Jendi Reiter of Winning Writers. Jendi had had good experiences with the press, so she wrote to editor Robert Wynne and asked for his side. Here's what he replied to Jendi:

"We gave Stacey every single thing she asked for except a photo on the back cover (and we had originally offered that, but she refused to allow us to consider editing the blurbs so it would fit). We spent countless hours and more than $200 of extra money (including purchasing a special font and securing specific cover art) to make the book look exactly the way she wanted. There were certainly misunderstandings along the way, but each one was dealt with as it arose and the only thing we were aware that she was dissatisfied with was the placement of her photograph. In the end, she refused to allow us to publish the book unless we put her picture on the back - when we, instead, wanted to put it inside the back of the book where we deemed it would look better, particularly given the lengthy blurbs on the back.

"During the process, Stacey became demanding about every aspect of the book's design, until she became unreasonable and even abusive. At that time we decided to revoke the book award. Since then, she has undertaken a campaign to 'get us back' in whatever way she thinks she can. First she went to a lawyer to assure that she would not have to return the prize money to retain the rights to her book, and we conceded that in an effort to put an end to this unfortunate situation. But she was still apparently unsatisfied, and so she agitated a writer at Poets & Writers (to whom we are providing detailed accounts of precisely what occurred, which may be used in a comprehensive story regarding the matter), and wrote her one-sided blog entry.

"Based on her blog entry, she seems to have confused proofreading with editing, since we don't commonly "edit" prize-winning manuscripts but always work with the author to proofread the text for formatting issues only an author could recognize. And she certainly has preconceived notions as to the role of author vs. press, which we can certainly do nothing at this point to rectify. We continue to do what we do because we care about poetry, and want to put out a quality product based on our years of experience as a small press. We have had many good experiences with authors, and very few bad ones. We look forward to more good experiences, and more wonderful poetry, in the future.

"I hope that will do the trick."

This story has generated an amazing blog response. Yesterday at Stacey's blog there were over 60 comments all in strong support of Stacey. My own response is there. But I do have a few thoughts to add today. Stacey apparently did not see a copy of a Cider Press book before entering the contest. If she had, she would have seen that their practice is to put a contest blurb on the back cover along with an inside page with the guidelines. I also wouldn't want either of those in my book, but I've seen many books which use a page or two to promote other books from the same press. Piece of advice: See at least one book from the press you're submitting to before you submit.

Yesterday I was wondering if last year's winner is under a gag restriction about her bad experience, how did Stacey know who that poet was and how did she come to know the story. Since I had Anne Caston's book on my table, it did not occur to me that Caston was that poet! Now it turns out that some contest entrants and friends of the press were sent sample copies before the dispute arose. I never entered the contest, so I must have fallen into the friends category. Apparently, my copy is one of a limited number out in the world. The rest were not circulated or sold due to whatever the falling-out was. It seems that some people were aware of the problem as it was occurring, before the gag restriction was in place.

Stacey in her blog post refers to Cider Press's "history of unethical dealings." The contest has only been around since 2004, so how extensive could the history be? And what exactly is that history? Judges have been Virgil Suarez, Tony Hoagland, and for this year Lucille Clifton. Would they judge a contest for a press that had an unethical history? Or might they not have known about it?

It seems that many of those who made comments are under the impression that the press demanded the return of the prize money and refused to return the rights to the book. Wynne's note suggests that rights would not be returned until the money was sent back. My question here is what did the contract specify in regards to money and rights if the book ended up not being published?

I noticed that a number of the comments on Stacey's blog and on other blogs made strange observations about the photos of the two editors. How is their appearance relevant? I also noticed that one poet / blogger has posted an attack on Tony Hoagland at numerous blogs. How is that relevant to Stacey's story? Such an attack does not add substance to her story or discredit the press. It simply sounds like unrelated vitriol. And it clouds the issue.

I continue to think that this is a very sad story, a dreadful situation for the poet. But I think we should in fairness assume that there's another side to the story. When we've heard it, then we can decide who's right, who's wrong. I hope that the publishers, Caron Andregg and Robert Wynne, will step forward and tell their side. If they have a defense, they need to make it.

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Publication Nightmare: A Cautionary Tale

Poet Stacey Lynn Brown recently posted about her horrible experience with a poetry book contest. I'll just quickly summarize: After having come close 19 times and having won once only to have the win rescinded when it was discovered that Stacey and the judge had gone to the same high school, just as she was ready to give up, finally, finally came the phone call telling Stacey that her manuscript had won. A contract was signed and Stacey looked forward to her first full-length collection. Things went downhill fast. She and the publisher disagreed on many issues. This contentious situation ultimately resulted in the publisher withdrawing the offer to publish and asking for a return of the contest prize money. Stacey engaged an attorney and prevailed. That is, she did not have to return the money and the rights to the book were returned to her. But she's still out one book and all those nice dreams she had.

Since the name of the press is now readily available at various blogs, I'll just say it's Cider Press. Now I've had a rather nice relationship with this editor and her journal. She published a poem of mine some years ago and then featured me on a women's website—a nice bio and write-up and three poems. Later she published another poem. Then last year she wrote a very nice review of my second book. The journal, Cider Press Review, is attractively done with perfect binding and a glossy color cover.

Several years ago the publisher and her partner decided to expand and begin a book contest. They engage a reputable judge for the contest. This past year's judge was Tony Hoagland. The upcoming contest judge is Lucille Clifton. The prize is the typical $1000 and 25 copies. Although the press does not have a distributor, the books appear to be nicely assembled. I have Anne Caston's Judah's Lion, the 2006 winner, in front of me right now. Although I find the cover unappealing, the inside looks fine to me. So it seems really unfortunate that things fell apart so badly this year.

Since I've heard / read only one side of the story, I can't make a judgment. But surely there's much to be learned from this story.

The whole thing makes me very grateful for and appreciative of my own publisher who is wonderful to work with and very accommodating. But once I had an altogether different experience and I learned a lot from it. Back in 1997 I entered a contest, not a manuscript contest but a single poem contest. The prize was $100 and a chapbook. Great! But not for long.

I was asked to go to the home of the woman who was acting as editor and publisher for the group that had sponsored the contest. It was on a freezing cold day, the roads covered with ice. She lived on a hill. I parked at the base of the hill in a restaurant parking lot and walked up the hill. As soon as I knocked on the door, the woman told me I had to move my car, so back down the hill I went, furious. When I entered her house, I could not believe the disgusting mess. The kitchen was something out of a Stephen King horror story. Piles of newspapers, books, garbage. Four cats, one of which took an instant dislike to me and repeatedly sunk its claws into me. Model airplanes and stuffed monkeys hanging off the ceiling pipes. One cat with a hairball in its throat.

I'd brought a sheaf of poems with me so that we could assemble the chapbook. It was soon clear that the woman wanted much more authority over my poems than I wanted to give her. But we selected 25 poems. They were put on a disk and I was asked to proofread. Tons of mistakes! I fixed them. Not a problem, but she seemed miffed that I hadn't made some of her suggested changes to individual poems.

Then she asked me to return to her house to select the cover paper. When I arrived, she showed me a hideous lime green. I asked what other colors she had. No other colors. A wasted trip and lime green was the color. I then waited for the publication of the chapbook.

Another part of my prize was a reading with a well-known poet. A few days before the reading, the woman asked me to again return to her house so I could pick up some copies of the chapbook. When I arrived, my heart plunged to the floor as I learned that on her own authority she'd deleted 10 poems from the collection, most of them my best poems! The font size was so small as to be almost unreadable. Some poems stopped midway down a page, then continued on another page. It was an abomination.

On the night of the reading, I was handed a box of chapbooks. I quickly passed them to my husband and told him to get them out of there. I didn't want to sell them or give them away. I was completely ashamed of them. Mortified to have anyone see them.

My husband later suggested that since I'd legitimately won the chapbook I was entitled to have the collection I wanted. So we paid for it to be redone at a local print shop. I knew someone who worked there and was given a good deal. I restored the missing poems, chose a lovely linen paper, and added black end pages with silver sparkles. The result was something I could feel proud of. Was my chapbook then a self-published work? I don't know. I do know that the story had a happy ending.

Poetry Daily
had already featured one of the poems when it first was published in Beloit Poetry Journal. They'd also planned to feature a second poem from the same journal, but had delayed doing so. By the time they got to it, the redone chapbook was done, and Poetry Daily was very nice about featuring that, too. I sold a bunch as a result. (Spring Church Books was carrying the book.) Then Garrison Keillor spotted that second poem and featured it at The Writer's Almanac. Sold a bunch more. Then in 2003 when my first book came out, Keillor featured the same poem again. Later he used the poem in his anthology, Good Poems for Hard Times. Then he read it at the Dueling Anthologists reading with Billy Collins at the 92nd St. Y in NYC. By the way, that was one of the 10 poems the woman had deleted from the chapbook!

I hope Stacey's story, too, will have a happy ending.

If you're wondering whatever happened to those lime green chapbooks, I destroyed them. All but two. Those I keep to remind myself that things can go wrong, that it's essential to know who you're dealing with, and that sometimes the book you want isn't the book you want after all. Put your work into the hands of people who will take good care of it. There was no way I could have examined earlier chapbooks from that woman as there weren't any. Nevertheless, I advise anyone with a manuscript to be selective about the contests you enter.

Come back tomorrow for the other side of the Cider Press story.

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Painting and Poetry

Strip-Tease, by Jeff Hayes

A few weeks ago I wrote about the workshop I took with Dorianne Laux and Joseph Millar. Participants were asked ahead of time to bring an object or picture which seemed to hold a story. I couldn't come up with an object or a picture. The ones I had I'd already used in poems. But then I remembered that a week or so earlier I'd posted my poem "Ecdysiast" along with an image I'd found on Google. When I'd searched Google Images, I'd also come across the above painting by Jeff Hayes. It was posted on eBay along with a number of other paintings by Jeff. Because of the title of this one, I'd thought about posting it with my poem, but in the end decided to go with one showing a woman tossing off her clothes since that's what the poem is about.

But I saved the painting on my desktop as I really liked it. So that's the image I took with me to the workshop. And I'm happy to say that it prompted a poem I rather like and have, after numerous drafts, finished (at least I think it's finished—in a week or so I may change my mind—you know how that goes). Now I've got an ekphrastic poem. Sorry, you can't see it! No posting and poofing for me.

Anyhow, as I got into the poem, I decided to google Jeff. Turns out he has a website and a blog. At both, he posts images of his paintings. He's engaged in a one-a-day project which reminds me of the one-a-day commitment some poets make in April, National Poetry Month. (Not me, though, just can't do it.)

Also turns out Jeff had a little contest thing going on. If you linked to his blog and posted something about it, you'd be eligible for the official drawing, and if you were the lucky winner, you'd receive one of Jeff's paintings. Unfortunately, I lost track of time. The deadline was August 10.

But I really like Jeff's work, so I'm giving him a round of applause here. This is also my way of saying thanks for the poem. I plan to revisit his blog to see if I can get some more poems going. Take a look for yourself. I'm not a painter, but I'm surprised that Jeff paints in oils. Isn't that a lot of cleaning up for a one-a-day project? Also, at the blog or website you can sign up to receive the images via email. Check it out.

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Day of Poetry—Pt 2

As promised, here's the rest of yesterday's prompt. Now that you have your list of phrases using your two initials, read this model poem by David Lehman. It appeared on The Writer's Almanac on May 17, 2008, and is from his collection, When a Woman Loves a Man.


SF stood for Sigmund Freud, or serious folly,
for science fiction in San Francisco, or fear
in the south of France. The system failed.
The siblings fought. So far, such fury,
as if a funereal sequence of sharps and flats
set free a flamboyant signature, sinful, fanatic,
the fire sermon of a secular fundamentalist,
a singular fellow's Symphonie Fantastique.

Students forget the state's favorite son's face.
Sorry, friends, for the screws of fate.
Stage fright seduces the faithful for the subway fare
as slobs fake sobs, suckers flee, salesmen fade.
Sad the fops. Sudden the flip side of fame.
So find the segue. Finish the speculative frame.

—"SF" by David Lehman from When a Woman Loves a Man (Scribner, 2005).
I love the playfulness of the poem, the pleasure the poet takes in the words. And I'm fascinated by the sounds that echo throughout the poem. Notice that Lehman sets up his poem in sonnet format with each line's last word beginning with the letter F.

Your job now is to take your list and turn the phrases into a poem. Don't worry excessively about making a lot of sense. Be playful, fanciful. Take pleasure in the words. Then impose some kind of formal structure on your poem. It doesn't have to be a sonnet, but something that has a pattern to it. Good luck.

A few final thoughts:
I wonder if this qualifies as an invented form? Or a hybrid? I'm aware of other poems that rely on the use of letters, e.g., the acrostic, the abecedarian, the anagram, but I haven't seen something like this in a sonnet form. I'm also wondering if you were to get a good result, a publishable one, if you should credit Lehman? What if your poem bears no resemblance to his except for the use of two letters?

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Day of Poetry

This past Friday I held a Day of Poetry at my house. This is something I've done a few times before. Here's how it goes: I invite a gang of girl poets to my house, 10:30 AM to about 4:00 PM. These are women who are good poets and who enjoy doing prompts and spending a day just concentrating on generating new work.

After some preliminary yakking, we sit in a circle in my family room and take turns giving each other prompts. Four of the poets have been asked to bring a prompt and mine makes #5. After each prompt is given, we take 20 minutes for drafting. I keep a timer by my chair and am fairly firm about not adding more time. There's something very creative, I think, about the squeeze of a time limit. No time to think or worry, just to write. Then we go around the circle and each poet reads her draft. This is a safe way to share first drafts as it's what everyone has in front of her. There's no expectation of perfection.

We offer minimal commentary, no official critiquing. My belief is that the poet ought to have an opportunity to revise and revise before receiving serious responses. But we offer appreciative hmm's and ahh's. We comment on what knocked us out. Then we move onto the next prompt.

We did two in the morning session. Then we broke for lunch. I provided sandwiches and a pasta salad. The three poets who hadn't brought prompts each contributed something to the lunch—a fruit salad, cheese and crackers, cookies. The weather was nice to us and did not rain as had been threatened, so three of us ate outside on the patio while four ate in the kitchen. Good food and good poetry talk. We were well fed in every way. There was no happiness like ours.

Then we returned to our circle and did three more prompts. So by the end of the day we each had drafts for five new poems! I expect to get several keepers out of the batch, and I know the others will too.

Now I've heard some poets say they don't like prompts. I've heard the implication that real poets don't use prompts, don't need prompts. Well, I'm a real poet, and I love prompts. Bring them on. I get goose bumps if I just know someone is going to give me a prompt. I almost always end up writing something that works in some way. I always write something I would not have written without the prompt. I might have written the poem I wrote to my own prompt, but definitely not the others. If nothing else, a day of poetry is good exercise.

I'm going to give you one of our prompts as a challenge. It's going to be in two parts, so you'll do the first part today, then return tomorrow for the next part. This prompt was provided by Susan Rothbard.

Choose any two letters. Most of us used our own initials, but it could be your favorite food, song, whatever. Then brainstorm a substantial list of phrases that use those two letters, eg, dreadful loser, desperate lady, desirous of lemons. Note that you are allowed to add a few surrounding or in-between words.

See you tomorrow.

Poets getting ready to write: Mary Florio, Susan Rothbard, Jean Meyers

Poets waiting for lunch: Jean Meyers (in back), Jessica deKoninck, Susan Rothbard, Sandra Duguid

Svea Barrett and Mary Florio after lunch

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Poetry Festival: The Movie

Back on June 1 the Poetry Festival that I've been running for the past five years was held at my local library. We had thirteen journals represented. Each editor invited two poets to read for his or her journal, so we had a total of 26 poets. The event ran from 1:00 PM-5:00 PM. Using the photos taken by David Vincenti and Anthony Buccino, I've put together a slide show which should give you a good idea of how the event is organized.

The full name of the event is "Poetry Festival: A Celebration of New Jersey's Literary Journals (and Some Neighbors)." I know it's a cumbersome name, but initially I invited only NJ journals. Then when we decided to hold the event annually, we realized that we'd have to spread out a bit in order to keep our 250 or so visitors coming back. That's why we are now "and Some Neighbors." The purpose of the festival is to honor the journals and editors that make it possible for us poets to get our work out into the world.

The full schedule of the day will give you an even better idea of how the day goes.

Now grab some popcorn and enjoy the show.

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

To Obey. Or Not To Obey.

Mary Biddinger recently posted some of her personal rules for writing poetry and challenged others to post their rules. Greg Rappleye accepted the challenge. Now here’s my list of do’s and don’ts.

1. No poem may be called a “poem” in the title. Likewise, no references in the poem to the act of writing a poem.

2. No using the f-word in a poem. Not because it’s obscene, but because it’s too easy, too overused, and too boring.

3. Try new forms. Learn from them, but don’t be a slave to them.

4. Scatter rhymes throughout the lines rather than positioning them at line ends.

5. Draft quickly; revise slowly; submit more slowly. Let several weeks pass before sending out. No poem before its time.

6. Find the format / shape of the poem only after multiple drafts, when thinking is just about over, when I’ve unearthed my material. Latching onto the format too early inhibits creative thinking.

7. Research my subject for useful facts and cool words. Import some of that into the poem.

8. Don’t be a cornball. Get rid of the bluebird and substitute a hunk of granite.

9. End with an image rather than a piece of information. Violations permitted.

10. Go over each line, interrogating each word. Improve the diction.

11. Let no one dictate what I may write about. Defy their impositions.

12. Decline to tell the story behind the poem. Withholding the truth shall set me free.

I prefer to think of the above as guidelines rather than rules. But I think it's good to have some; then you can work with them or against them.

So what are your personal rules? Or do you not have any?

Bookmark and Share

Friday, August 8, 2008

Poets du Jour: Dorianne Laux and Joseph Millar

Since meeting Dorianne and Joe, I've been spending some time with their new books. I had already read Dorianne's Facts About the Moon; I enjoyed the collection even more the second time through.

Here's one of my favorite poems from the collection.


We buried the hummingbird
in his mantle of light, buried
him deep in the loam, one eye
staring into the earth's fiery
core, the other up through
the door in the sky. His needle
beak pointed east, his curled
feet west, and we each touched
our fingertips to his breast
before lifting them up from
the darkness to kiss. And
from our blessed fists we
rained the powdery dirt
down, erasing the folded
wings, the dream-colored
head, tamping the torn grass
with the heels of our hands,
our bare feet, summer almost
over, swaying together on the great
ship of death as clouds sailed by,
blowing our hair and the wind
walked us back to our room.

I like the simple beauty of this small scene about a small creature. There's a quiet elegance to the diction. Not fancy words but well-chosen ones, words that subtly appeal to the ear. Notice, for example, the rhymes / near rhymes with east, west, darkness, kiss, breast, blessed, and fists. And core, door, torn. Lots of consonance and assonance throughout. I admire this poet's music. She pierces the heart through the ear.

Another poem I really admire is the title poem. This one is available online as an audio. Check it out and listen to Laux read Facts About the Moon.

I also found a terrific collection of audios by Dorianne at the Kelly Writers House site. Eleven more poems including one of my absolute favorites, "Pearl," about Janis Joplin. To hear Dorianne read some of her poems.

Then I moved onto Joe's new book, Fortune. This was my first acquaintance with Joe's work. It's terrific. No wonder he's just won a Pushcart Prize!

Here's one of my favorites:


The toilet was ancient and wouldn’t stop
running even after the stained tank filled,
its metal valves and rusty ball float

oxidized to an undersea green. The new
bowl was elongated, svelte, eighty-five
pounds of gleaming porcelain muscled

up the narrow back stairs, three separate gouges
in the bathroom wall where I’d suggested,
scattering unguents and salves,

soaps made from oatmeal and apricot,
stoppered rose water, bits of beach glass,
hairpins, aloe vera and blueing.

One enters this kingdom like a guest
careful to remain in one’s own scant preserve,
razor, toothbrush and ragged towel kept apart

from these occult potions, the jar of chalky
pink fluid for the bowels, foot plasters, corn
and bunion removers, gels and lotions, aspirin bottles,

stockings draped casually over the showerhead like
dark mesh for straining opium, lavender powders,
shark oil suppositories wrapped in crinkly foil.

What hubris to imagine a smooth installation.
I managed to donkey the new commode
straight down onto its wax ring seal,

black sleeve wedged in the drain pipe,
its two-inch trapway one hundred percent
glazed white vitreous china, fastened

in place with solid brass bolts. And I never
felt the small collision against my heel in the
half step I’d taken, backward, to admire my labor,

knocking the tank from its resting place
so it fell over the threshold and broke
with a sound like a glacier calving

off the Siberian coast . . .
I stayed on my knees a long time after that
trying to imagine some supplication

to the gods of water and household calm
which might restore my original vision:
to be seated in silence here at last

lost in thought or meditating on the perfectibility
of man, idly perusing a seed catalogue
or “Tintern Abbey,” or the diagram

of a vagina as it appears on a box of tampons,
all the while basking in gratitude
for the roughage in last night’s salad.

Who writes a poem about a toilet? This guy does—and I'm glad he did. What a doozy of a poem! I love the catalog of personal items in this bathroom, the mixture of lovely (lavender, apricot, stoppered rose water, aloe vera) and embarrassing (vagina, tampons, Pepto Bismol, suppositories). I'm charmed by the mixture of serious and frivolous in the poem, particularly the contrast between the speaker's vision for the upgraded toilet and the nightmare of its installation, his Shakespearean hubris and his regal position on his throne. I also appreciate the underlying humor in a formal structure that is so at odds with subject matter. And how about that last line! Worthy of a crown.

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Poetry Workshop

Dorianne Laux and Joe Millar

Friday I attended an all-day workshop with Dorianne Laux and Joe Millar. It's been several years since I've gone to a workshop, but I jumped at this opportunity to meet and spend some time with these two poets. The day was organized by Nancy Hechinger who knows both poets from her MFA program at Pacific University. I thought we were meeting in some kind of local cultural center, but the location turned out to be Nancy's incredibly beautiful house. I could not have asked for a nicer, more perfect setting for a day of poetry.

Nancy's house

There were just nine of us, so it was a cozy group. We introduced ourselves as we sat in a circle in the living room. Then Dorianne and Joe led us through a warm-up activity called a "glimpsed memory." We did it orally as a kind of story-telling activity with each new teller beginning with the last line of the previous person's story. We were given 20 minutes to produce a draft of our poems and sent off to various locations to write. Then we shared the drafts and some commentary.

Next came a delicious lunch—pasta salad, cherry tomato and mozzarella salad, roast chicken, and coconut cupcakes. The weather was cooperative, so we ate outside.

Poets enjoying lunch

After lunch we did one more writing activity based on an object or picture we'd been asked to bring. Dorianne and Joe inserted a number of requirements which I always find challenging and fun. This time we wrote for 40 minutes before getting back together.

I returned home with drafts of two new poems and that nice feeling that comes after a day spent doing what you most enjoy doing.


View out the living room window

Pond for swimming and fishing

Side view of house

Back view of house

Bookmark and Share

Friday, August 1, 2008

Queen for a Day

I'm thrilled to be the featured poet today at Poetry Daily! Please pay me a visit. The poem is "Seventh-Grade Science Project." It appears in the current issue of the Harvard Review.

As if that weren't enough excitement for one day, I'm now up in Kingston, NY, where I have come in order to take an all-day poetry workshop with Dorianne Laux and Joseph Millar. I haven't taken a workshop in a long time, but jumped at the opportunity to spend time with these two poets. One benefit of being in the workshop is that it will prevent me from sitting around all day staring at myself on Poetry Daily. And I hope to return home with some new poems underway. Details coming soon.

Bookmark and Share
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...